17 Recent Deviations
Featured: I'm Euphemia Li Britannia
In the Land of WarriorsDisclaimer: I do not own Code Geass, Clamp and Sunrise do.[ILW]In the Land of Warriors[ILW]In the Kingdom of Zilkhstan's capital, the City of Gralbahd, the people there lived under a heavily defended, if strict, atmosphere on account of Zilkhstan's highly competent military also being the main driver to the local economy through mercenary contracting. Despite the country's focus on profits in warfare, however, the Zilkhstanians were mostly content with their way of life as religiously guided by the Farlaf Order for centuries by the year 2017 Ascension Throne Britannia, during which time, power of the entire country was shared between the Holy Priestess of the Farlaf Order, Queen Shamna, and her younger brother who commanded the military, King Shalio.Almost eight years prior to the date at the time, Zilkhstan's on and off enemy nation, the globally expanding Holy Britannian Empire, surprised the known world by offering the Kingdom custody of the children of the recently assassinated Empress Marianne vi Britannia as an official attempt to improve relations between the two monarchies. Even more surprising, their developing alliance had lasted even longer than what most people expected to the point that Zilkhstan not only aided Britannia in annexing multiple nations such as Japan, but that Queen Shamna was rumored to be engaged to the late Empress Marianne's only son, Prince Lelouch, to further solidify their partnership.Unknown to the common masses, however, was that this growing union was formulated less due to political conveniences and more to machinations involving the supernatural power of Geass."I trust that your mother is doing well?" Shamna herself asked her fiancé while she and Lelouch were relaxing in the former's audience chamber within the Temple built inside the cliff surrounding Gralbahd, Shamna sitting on the fine-themed sofa as usual and Lelouch resting his head on the former's lap.Despite what the official story said, Marianne vi Britannia only died in body eight years before while her spirit survived due to her individual Geass granting her the power to transfer her soul into another body, allowing her to survive the assassination. Although both Lelouch and Nunnally were intimidated to learn that the supernatural existed and that a grave enemy meant to do their family harm, they were still happy to know that their mother was still with them in one form or another.As for the developing ties between Britannia and Zilkhstan, it was Emperor Charles zi Britannia's hidden intention, with the advice of the loyalist Geass Order's leader, C.C., that a reconciliation occur between the main organization and its centuries old splinter group, the Farlaf, to combat their common foe in V.V., a similar figure to C.C. and Emperor Charles' own brother, who planned on continuing the Ragnarok Connection to control all of Humanity. All the same, it was a positive bonus that Lelouch and Shamna grew genuinely close since they first met.It was not an instant relationship on first sight, considering their youth at the time when their paths came together, but due to their similarities of having a younger sibling to look after alongside their developing intellects and inclination to pragmatic actions, they slowly emerged from strangers to close friends then lovers as they grew older."She is, my Queen." Lelouch answered Shamna's question with a flirtatious address and appreciative smile. "With Anya as her host, my mother is gradually becoming the Knight of Six again, so Nunnally and I might not hear from either of them for at least a while."Caressing her fiancé's face, Shamna commented with. "Well, I'm sure they will both manage just as you and Nunnally will always be welcome to come here still."With a nod, Lelouch replied. "Indeed, but enough about the sad details, Shamna, I'm more interested in you at the moment."Humming in content, Shamna planted a kiss on Lelouch's lips that the young prince gladly reciprocated. As soon as they broke contact, Shamna responded. "I feel the same way, my handsome Emperor Lelouch to be."[ILW]If my fellow Code Geass fan, known online as PKD, is reading this, thank you very much for giving me an idea for how to make this pairing work in a one-shot. FanFictionNet's A Golden Meridian's adaptational good depiction of Nightmare of Nunnally's Eden Vital organization as written by Z98 helped, too. I had been meaning to work on Lelouch/Shamna for a long while, but the potential plot, even for a one-shot, kept escaping me.I also have made some thoughts about Lelouch founding an organization modeled after G.I. Joe's Cobra, or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' Foot Clan, and then opposing enemies unique to each respective franchise like Cobra-La and the Triceratons as crazy as it sounds, but I think I will be more likely to do Code Geass modeled after Spider-Man in one story, which may or may not be doing at a long pace like Lelouch of the Emerald Knights, and inserted in Voltron: Legendary Defender in another, which I would prefer to make different from Code Geass: Paladins of Voltron. We will just have to see in time.
Lelouch of the Emerald Knights 1ofDisclaimer: I do not own Code Geass, Clamp and Sunrise do, just as DC Comics owns Green Lantern and its related superheroes and supervillains.[LEK]Lelouch of the Emerald Knights[LEK]Chosen for Greatness[LEK]In late July of the two-thousandth and seventeenth year of the Ascension Throne Britannia calendar, Area 11, formerly known as the independent nation of Japan before it officially fell to the Holy Britannian Empire in a month long war almost seven years before, was experiencing the last few weeks of summer break from school for its younger citizens while the Viceroy that governed Area 11 in the Emperor of Britannia's name, Third Prince Clovis la Britannia, was fighting a stalemated battle with the scattered Japanese resistance movements across his territory. However, neither Planet Earth's governments nor rogue organizations alike, had prepared for the arrival of life from beyond the Earth itself.[LEK]As night formed over Area 11, Lelouch Lamperouge, a Britannian student approaching eighteen and attending the private Ashford Academy, looked at the night sky in contemplation from the roof of the Academy's clubhouse for the Student Council which he was vice-president of. While the school itself was closed during summer break, Lelouch and his younger sister, Nunnally, depending on the former noble family that founded and managed Ashford Academy for legal guardianship, lived at the Student Government Clubhouse away from prying eyes and ears with just themselves and their maid on loan from the Ashford Family, Sayoko Shinozaki, for company.Of course, while it was not a terrible sort of living circumstances as both siblings were able to forge tight bonds with the Student Council and the Ashfords, for Lelouch, who yearned for more, he felt it was only a matter of time before he had to make a decision regarding both himself and Nunnally as his graduation was only a short few years away, and despite how much he wanted to believe otherwise, he could not help but fear that both their friends and protectors would eventually betray the two of them if they felt they could gain an advantage from Lelouch and Nunnally's ties to the Britannian Imperial Family they were born into, exiled from, and spent seven years hiding from.'Nonetheless, I must be ready for whatever happens.' Lelouch thought in resolution as he saw what appeared to be a falling star in the night sky. Looking upon his hands that were clenched into fists, he decided that it would not matter what challenges lay await for him in the following weeks before his next year of school, or the following years when he would have to leave Ashford and unfortunately Nunnally behind. As much as he despised the survival of the fittest mentality that consumed the minds of Britannia's people, Lelouch could not help but argue with the words since they described his own situation. He would fight against whatever that or whoever would bar his way in making things better for his sister.So wrapped up in his own thoughts, Lelouch did not notice the arriving green glow speeding towards him, until it arrived right beside him. Giving a shout of surprise, Lelouch saw the floating green oil lantern-like object accompanied by a similarly green and floating ring."What the Hell?" Lelouch wondered at the sight when the ring apparently called out to him in a computerized voice."Lelouch vi Britannia of Earth, Space Sector 2814, you are one who can overcome great fear." The ring said to a surprised Lelouch as he recognized it calling him by the birth surname that he abandoned long ago.Forcing himself to speak, Lelouch replied. "How do you know that name? Who or what are you?""This Green Lantern Power Ring is imbedded with an artificial intelligence programmed to assist and guide the current wielder in any endeavor pertaining to their duties in the Green Lantern Corps as intergalactic keepers of peace, order, and justice." The Ring answered as if it was a matter of fact."Okay." Lelouch commented at last, which he internally figured was an understatement, considering he was looking at the proof of existing alien lifeforms as well as artificial intelligences right in front of him. Focusing back on topic, he asked. "Why am I being presented with this knowledge?""The previous Green Lantern tasked with maintaining peace and intergalactic law in this Space Sector, Abin Sur of Ungara, was mortally injured upon crash-landing on Earth following a confrontation with Red Lantern Corps leader, Atrocitus. With his final act, he commanded his Power Ring and Power Battery to seek out a potential successor, one who can overcome great fear and channel his or her willpower to serve the greater good of the universe.""Willpower?"It was then that the Power Ring projected an image of countless lifeforms either Humanlike or radically different wearing the same green uniform before a group of diminutive, blue-skinned Humanoids in red clothing as the Ring narrated. "Over three billion years ago, the Guardians of the Universe, headquartered on the planet Oa in the direct center of this universe, harnessed the green light of willpower of the Emotional Electromagnetic Spectrum to give rise to a predominant police force known today as the Green Lantern Corps comprised of, at maximum, seven thousand and two hundred Green Lanterns across the three thousand and six hundred Space Sectors within their jurisdiction, with two individual Lanterns assigned to their native sector." It then changed the projection to show an individual Green Lantern that Lelouch figured look like a kind of alien bovine use their Power Ring to form a hammer made of solid green light. "Through the bearer's own willpower, a Green Lantern Power Ring can generate and project energy to form any number of constructs that are limited only by the user's skill, knowledge, and imagination." Lastly, it then showed a Green Lantern that looked like an enlarged head with its arms and legs attached on either side of said head drawing energy from their own green oil lantern which Lelouch figured was supposed to be a Power Battery that came with the Ring. "A Power Ring's charge is sustainable for typical use in twenty-four hours, but requires recharging from an accompanying Power Battery to remain powered. To achieve this, the Green Lantern is to point his or her Power Ring towards their Power Battery and say the Green Lantern Oath while recharging." The projections ending, the Ring then asked Lelouch. "Do you accept this duty, Lelouch vi Britannia."Grasping his own face with his right hand, Lelouch took a deep breath before exhaling at the amount of information he was supposed to take in. At the same time, he could not help but feel that he was not qualified for this responsibility in more ways than one. 'Then again, this could be helpful as well.' He thought, considering the potential power and aid that being a Green Lantern would give him in protecting Nunnally and bringing to justice those who wronged them, and that was just on Earth alone. There was a whole universe filled with possibilities, after all.Staring straight at the Power Ring with conviction in his eyes, he held his right hand out and said seriously. "I accept, but I request that you refer to me as Lelouch Lamperouge.""Acknowledged." Slipping unto his index finger, Lelouch then saw the Ring automatically form one last projection as it requested. "Please say the oath."Reading the words that had been translated right in front of him, Lelouch uttered as he pointed his Ring in front of the battery. "In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight. Let those who worship evil's might, beware my power, Green Lantern's Light."Upon his final word, Lelouch felt great power enveloping his entire body as the Power Battery fell down on the floor undented. Looking over himself, he saw that his casual clothes had been overlapped with the same uniform he saw the Green Lanterns in the projections wearing.Humming in thought, he then said aloud. "Not necessarily a bad wardrobe, but can't I customize what I look like? Preferably with something that can obscure my voice?" It would not hurt to look and sound more unique, especially if it came with a means to conceal his identity while on Earth."Those are acceptable." The Ring's A.I. informed Lelouch, who then played around with his imagination before making a sleek bodysuit modeled after an aristocratic fashion with a spiky mask hiding his face."This will do." Lelouch said with a deeper voice, clearly liking his new appearance. "Now then, let's test my power out."Using his willpower, Lelouch made a construct in the form of a knife which he then threw straight up into the air and allowed it to dissipate when it appeared to fall back down. While he was not known on campus as an athletic student, with the Power Ring, the knife was thrown far higher than his regular throwing skills would have taken it. Satisfied, he continued to form other constructs in the form of guns, swords, and even toy-sized Knightmare Frames until he heard a woman's voice call out."Who are you?!"Turning around in surprise, Lelouch saw his Japanese maid, Sayoko, leap athletically through the air before jumping on top of his stunned self with a kunai in hand."Wait, Sayoko!" He called out frantically and allowed his mask to dissipate to reveal himself to her. "It's me!"With shock in her eyes, Sayoko pulled herself back before taking Lelouch by his left arm and pulling him up as well. "Master Lelouch? I came to check on you per your sister's request, but what is all this?"Seeing that he could not talk his way out of this, Lelouch decided it would be best to confide in his Nunnally's protector on hand. "It's a bit hard to describe in words, but I'll do the best I can to explain."[LEK]At Area 11's largely uninhabited, seaside Shizuoka Ghetto, the Britannian Military, under the command of Viceroy Clovis and his military aide, General Bartley Asprius, had secured the surrounding area where the falling object from space had crashed at. Upon learning that the object was in fact an advanced vessel of non-Human design, both Clovis and Asprius were even more surprised to learn that a Foreign Legion detachment on patrol was first on the scene and had successfully kept the U.F.O. warded from any potential passersby in addition to one teenage recruit among them, Private Suzaku Kururugi, the son of the former Japan's last Prime Minister in fact, had used what little first aid experience he had to maintain the alien craft's red skinned Humanoid pilot's health until reinforcements arrived.Kururugi was finishing his report to Clovis and Asprius when the Viceroy then sighed before asking an off-topic question. "It is my understanding, Private, that two of my late half-siblings were in your family's care until the Second Pacific War erupted, correct?"Although visibly uncomfortable with what the Viceroy was clearly wondering, Kururugi answered. "Yes, Your Highness, Prince Lelouch and Princess Nunnally stayed with me for a time, and after an uneasy start, I came to consider the both of them as my friends."Flexing his fingers for a moment, Clovis finally said. "We can talk more them as well as what important work I can assign you with later. For now, return to your unit."After the Private saluted and dismissed himself, Clovis turned to his General, who was clearly wondering what the Prince had in mind. "Don't overthink it, Bartley. If nothing else, I can gain closure from what became of my half-siblings as well as potentially make a good propaganda piece out of Kururugi." He then added. "Assuming he tames the Lancelot perfectly.""I see, Your Highness." Bartley nodded in understanding. "And what is to become of this find?""Once we relocate the alien and it's starship to the proper facility in the Settlement, Code R is to take a break from it's usual projects and cooperate with Camelot into understanding what has happened today and what may happen in the future. I'll be sure to inform the Emperor and Prime Minister Schneizel for further aid and permission to go forward soon enough."[LEK]Having escaped from the Green Lantern's captivity and allowing his ship to crash on Earth, Atrocitus laid in wait on the primitive planet to deal with the Ungaran once and for all in the event he survived the crash, and was dismayed to see that a native military force had already taken the still alive Ungaran into their custody. Nonetheless, Atrocitus reasoned that Abin Sur did not have long to live, given the state of his injuries and how Earthly medicine was ill-equipped to deal such a patient in the first place, so he felt no reason to get involved at the moment.Still, there was an important task he had to undertake before he could reunite with the Red Lantern Corps. Sur did not have his Power Ring, Power Battery, or even his Green Lantern uniform on him when the Earthmen arrived to survey the crash. It could only mean that he had already dispatched his duty to a successor on Earth, and Atrocitus had an opportunity to kill another pawn of the Guardians he despised.'In the meantime, I should learn more about this dirtball's Human race.' He thought with a sneer as he observed the sentients in question carefully loading Sur's starship onto a land vehicle for transport. While a savage species, Humanity could spawn a promising Red Lantern to come.[LEK]My writing groove kind of declined a bit after my last couple of posts, and after some discussion on SpaceBattles about Lelouch with superpowers from other media, I felt inspired to make something out of it. While I can understand why some people might see Lelouch being more applicable as a potential Red Lantern before he became Zero, or a Sinestro Corpsman if he got a Power Ring during his Rebellion, I would like to point out that while Lelouch did have a great deal of anger against the world order he was brought up in, I do believe he held enough courage still to act for defense of his loved ones. I suppose it just depends on what he feels in his heart at the time he becomes noticeable to a Power Ring. Besides, with respect to Alan Scott, one could argue that the usual Green Lantern mythos began as a story when Abin Sur crashed on Earth and had his Ring seek someone out, so there you have it.I honestly do not know how long I will make out of this idea, but I intend to make the most of it, if for no other reason than to inspire others. Still I would not mind advice on lore and characters that have mostly appeared in the comics. I know we have a DC-oriented app for that sort of thing these days, but it does not always have everything. I intend to look stuff up myself as well, but some extra help would be welcome.While I have gathered that the real world Japan has a different school schedule compared to the United States where I am from, or the United Kingdom where Britannia got its name from, I figured that since Japan would be under Britannian administration at this time, it wouldn't hurt to give Area 11 a western school schedule, especially since the timeline in the show itself is kind of screwy, anyway.Aside from Green Lantern Lelouch, I noticed some other interesting ideas on SpaceBattles and I feel somewhat inspired by the thoughts of him with his Nightmare of Nunnally Geass, a Hellsing Alucard-based familiar summoning power along the same lines of NoN's example, a Voltron Paladin alongside some of his Ashford Academy friends, except the heavy biases that I have seen in Code Geass: Paladins of Voltron, and a similar Knightmare Frame depiction to Suzaku of the Counterattack's modeled after Marvel's Ironman, which does not need to be a crossover since I cannot imagine a good chunk of Ironman-related characters fusing into the world of Code Geass unless they are an extraterrestrial, interdimensional, or even time traveling being, but I will see how that goes.Be on the lookout for eventual updates.
[CM] RC: DispatchA/N: Hi everyone,Apologies for the length of time it has taken for another chapter for Roanapur Connection to be done. It has been quite a hectic 14 months that is for sure from work having gotten much busier during this period, to moving homes myself and Blackmanaburning. Personal struggles that have impacted our ability to write the next planned main chapter 9 months after we started it. Along with also recruitment for RC not having gone as planned that has led to jumbling of chapters and rewrites etc. that’s still ongoing and another reason why there has been no update for ages. And our whole way of life being disrupted by the ongoing Convid-19 virus has not helped either with the anxiety, stress and uncertainly of it all stopped myself from writing while I am on furlough from work.Again I wish there was more updates more often, but everyone working on RC as part of DeadlyViperQuill team that I mentioned in wanting to set up in my last A/N note which I had a logo done for it by Wenart on DA. As there would be no RC without the people that work on it.Which is currently me, Blackmambauk lead of the project, my dear friends Blackmanaburning, AnneauxDeLaCroix and hopefully 2 more members that I hope to announce in the near future, have commitments and a lot going on at the moment that hampers our ability to work on RC as much as we want to.Anyway’s enough on all of that, here is the first chapter written by AnneauxDeLaCroix, we are very happy to finally get this chance to work together on a project after two years since we first made contact and from there have become very close friends with the other having been a real help during difficult times we both have had since. I am truly honoured to work with a writer of her high calibre and she has done a marvellous job on introducing a character we are both very fond of and who we feel has so much potential to explore that her main series never did. But let me pass you over to Cat now who will detail her thoughts. Thanks again for all views and favs etc across the web for RC BlackMambauk--A/N: And now, Cat. I knew very little about Code Geass before taking on this project. Seeing it through BlackMambauk’s eyes has been an absolute joy, and his letting me explore the characters more in-depth by creating these backgrounds that define them is exhilarating. I love this project and the intense amount of support it’s received. I look forward to working on it further. Stay safe and healthy.Please enjoy Dispatch.Love,Cat--DispatchCatherine LaCroix 2020“Our war is being fought by children?"- Duke Leland non BritanniaOne[Date: 13/04/1995 ATB, Time: Unknown, San Diego, Britannia]There was an art to playing a practical joke. Anyone could swap hair-wax for honey or cover a chair in paste. But a veritable, well-thought-out prank took time, finesse, a clever mind, and a little luck.Anna struck gold the day she’d overheard Leland during an evening shift in the local tavern. The man maintained a habitual schedule that functioned like clockwork. Wake and dress, read for exactly one hour, enjoy lunch at his favorite restaurant, drinks with peers in the tavern during the evenings, in bed by 10 pm. He never deviated. At first, Anna found it difficult to believe that he kept to the same routine day in and day out. To a girl 15 years of age, it seemed mind-numbingly dull. Sure enough, however, his rear was in the same seat at the bar—to the minute!—every night. He was a man you could set your watch by.He was the perfect target.And so, unbeknownst to Leland, a plan began to take form. Nothing lethal, of course. Just a few touches with enough flair to cause the maximum amount of embarrassment and discomfort. The commoners of the city held fast to a kind of secretive communication network. Where even the servants of nobles could exchange information with the beggars in the streets. They were the heartbeat of Britannia and the pulse of Anna’s plan.Following the quick, underhanded passing of a uniform, Anna found herself inside of Leland’s estate. She’d been told that he commonly employed and fired servants, oftentimes in the same day. Her presence would easily go unnoticed. And with his renowned vanity, there was little chance of him recognizing her from the tavern. So long as she kept her violet eyes glued to the ground.Anna’s heart raced in excitement as she moved about the manor, ignoring the curious glances from other servants in the hallways. Eventually, she made her way into the kitchen, searching for his morning breakfast tray. The glint of polished silver caught her eye and she knew she’d found it. A pot of deep, golden tea, a spread of fresh-baked pastries, and the book that held his recent attentions. With otherworldly dexterity, she cracked a tiny vial over the teapot and swapped his reading for one with a similar, plain cover. That was assuming he would have the chance to read before the potent aphrodisiac kicked in. Well, in that case, the book’s unsavory subject matter could only help him, really.With extreme difficulty, Anna maintained a straight face as she carried the tray to his room-length table. No other guests sat beside him and for a few heartbeats, she wondered how lonely it must have felt. Even so, she knew that table would have costed more than the combination of everything she owned. The thought strengthened her resolve.She slid the tray in front of him, pouring a cup of tea with the grace of a servant in practice for years. He nodded without so much as a glance in her direction, chose a pastry, and took a deep sip from his teacup.Anna hurried away, loitering in the drawing-room for only a moment to let loose a string of silent giggles. Leland’s day was far from over. She made her way to the stables.Leland’s best and most favored horse was a prize-winning mare. She was sleek, powerful, and jet-black from nose to tail.“We’ve the same hair, you and I,” Anna murmured, gently running her fingers through the horse’s thick mane. “Perhaps one day I’ll share your strength.”The mare nickered as if to reply, “Perhaps.”Anna smiled. For as long as she could remember, she’d shared an affinity with creatures of equine lineage.“A’int seen you ‘round here at all,” an unfamiliar voice interrupted her thoughts. A young man stood a few stalls down, watching her carefully. From his attire, he was clearly a servant.“First day, actually,” Anna replied easily. Lies had a way of rolling off of her tongue like honey.“M’lord doesn’t let new servants touch Aubrey.” He nodded toward the horse. “Even lookin’ at ‘er is a good way to get a whippin’.”“He asked me to ready her for travel.” Anna did her best to look confused. “Maybe he didn’t know I’m new.”While he studied her deciding on what to say next, Anna found a blanket, saddle, bit, and reigns. A handful of years past, she’d committed preparing a horse for riding to muscle memory. To the servant’s credit, his eyebrows raised in surprise.“You been around horses before?” he asked.“A few times.”“Is today a special ‘ccasion? M’lord usually takes a different horse for pleasure rides.”Anna shrugged. “Dunno. Just doing what I’m told.”He shook his head, clearly befuddled.Perfect.Anna unlatched the hook on the stall’s door, gently leading Aubrey over the hay-covered floor.“Ready to run like hell?” she whispered so the young man wouldn’t hear.Aubrey flicked her ears.When Anna reached the main gate of the estate, she checked behind her before carefully pushing against the polished iron. In one swift movement, she hooked one foot in a stirrup and swung herself atop of Aubrey. She noticed too late that the servant had followed her out and was now yelling strings of profanities. Loudly.“Yah!” She kicked at Aubrey’s sides and they were off in a flash.She made for the small patches of woods that twined through the city. The more out of sight she stayed, the better. Only a handful of times did she have to ride out in the open where one group of trees and another began. Confused nobles and commoners alike spared her a quick glance. But, at the speed they were going, it would have looked like a blur.Anna had never met a horse like Aubrey, and their bodies fell into an immediate synchronization. Anna felt like an extension of her mount; something more than her ‘rider.’ She made minor changes to the positioning of her legs and the directions in which she leaned whenever she felt a shift in Aubrey’s muscles. And the speed! Not for a second was Anna afraid they’d run into a tree or an innocent passerby. Aubrey’s reactions and timing to whatever obstacles lay in their path was something beyond perfection. Their heartbeats aligned. The cool wind on Anna’s face and the scent of the trees was exhilarating. She never wanted that moment to end.However, as many extravagant practical jokes suffered, there’d been a snitch.“You there! Stop!” A bellow sounded behind her.She glanced over her shoulder to see a broad-shouldered, wheat-haired man catching up to her on his own grey stallion.“Damn,” she cursed beneath her breath. But she wasn’t giving up that easy. “C’mon, Aubrey.”Despite the horse’s heavy panting, Aubrey’s pace accelerated. Anna leaned in, closing the distance between her own body and her mount’s. The trees passed in one, continuous green blur. When they reached the end of one green cluster, Aubrey leaped into the next—sailing over two merchant carts and one very confused toddler.“By order of the Royal Guard! I command you to stop!” Came another shout.She was in deep. And still, the adrenaline pounding in her ears urged her to keep going.So, she did.Aubrey and Anna galloped in seven-meter strides; both of their breathing came in short gasps. She could feel the desire of the beast to keep pushing; both within and without.And then, as the town ended and the true forest began, Anna pulled her steed short of a huge, rushing river. In her excitement, she’d made a huge miscalculation in direction. Sharp, poignant memories struck her like bolts of lightning. Attempting to cross that very same river on her favorite horse. The tide crashing against them with an intensity the surface concealed so well. Her lovely steed’s legs caving beneath the pressure until she too was swept into the current. The desperate—almost human—cries of her drowning mare while Anna flailed in a last-ditch effort to save her.“—that horse, immediately!” The bellowing broke her thoughts and dragged her back to the present moment.A cold sweat mingled with the perspiration of excitement from the chase. Anna found that her breathing came in rasps. She closed her eyes for a moment, regaining her composure.“Are you daft, girl? Dismount that creature immediately!” he repeated.With clumsy movements, Anna dismounted. She hadn’t noticed how badly her hands were shaking.“Do you realize what you’ve done, girl?” The man’s pale cheeks were a deep red. His breathing came in haggard spurts.“Took a ride on my horse?” she replied, her eyes dropping to the ground.“That is Lord Leland’s mare, you insufferable brat. Do you know the punishment for stolen property?” he spat.“For a commoner? Death, I believe.” A third party joined in on their conversation.Anna’s stomach twisted into knots as Lord Leland appeared from the forest on another steed. He shifted uncomfortably astride his mount and, despite her overwhelming fear, Anna forced herself to hide the smile that threatened her lips. Their gazes locked and understanding glittered in Leland’s eyes.“The servant girl this morning. That was you. What in the seven hells did you put into my tea?” Leland readjusted again.“Schisandra and clary sage, m’lord,” she mumbled.His lips pursed in puzzlement, but his companion’s scowl relaxed. Anna swore she could see the ghost of a smile twitch at the corner of his mouth.Anna took it as a good time to apologize. She fell to her knees and clasped her hands against her breast. “It was a joke, sir. Honest. I was going to return your horse. The herbs will wear off in a few hours. Your book is still in your kitchen.”Silence stood between them for some time. The sound of the river tugged at Anna’s memory, but she pushed it away.“I’ve never seen anyone ride like that,” the blonde noble commented at last. “Where did you learn, girl?”“I dunno. I guess I just picked it up,” she replied truthfully.“Ruben, she poisoned my tea and stole my horse. This cannot go unpunished.” Color rose to Leland’s face.“Let’s bring her before the Council, then.”“I’ve half a mind to toss her in the river, instead." Anna shivered but said nothing.Leland sighed, conceding to some unspoken agreement between both men. “Before the council, then.”Anna moved to remount Aubrey. Leland made a sharp hissing sound between his teeth. “You’ll walk her back, girl. Mount her again and I’ll cut off your hand.”Petting Aubrey’s graceful neck, Anna silently thanked her for the best ride of her life. She took up the reins and slowly followed the men on foot.—The thin soles of Anna’s shoes were nearly worn-through by the time they reached the council hall. The walk back was uncomfortably quiet, save a few words exchanged between Leland and Ruben. She didn’t dare complain of the ache in her legs or the sting of sharp rocks against her feet. There was the option of taking the easier cobblestone paths, but Leland’s anger was palpable, and any small punishment he could force upon her in the interim would have to suffice. And so, they dragged her through the unkempt patches of forest.Beyond the pain and her growling stomach when she realized that she hadn’t eaten all day, the worst of it all was getting caught. Only one other time had she ever been ferreted out in the midst of a practical joke, and it hadn’t held nearly the weight of this one.Once Leland and Ruben had dismounted, Anna handed Aubrey’s reigns to her rightful owner. He snatched them out of her hand, glancing at her attire as if for the first time.“You stole one of my uniforms?” The edge to his words hadn’t left.“Borrowed, sir.” Anna followed his gaze to the skirts. She hadn’t noticed that they’d been dirtied and torn by the surrounding branches that snagged at the flowing fabrics during her ride.“Destroyed, more like. Do you know what a single uniform costs me?” He rubbed at his temples. “A commoner wouldn’t make that in a year!”“I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t know—” Anna stammered.Leland rose a hand as if to strike her.“Leland,” Ruben interrupted. “We can worry about that later. Come now.”Anna braced for a blow that never came. Leland inhaled sharply and dropped his arm.Ruben led the way into the building and Anna followed, keeping her head bowed and eyes low. Well-dressed men and women moved purposefully about the building, exchanging brief pleasantries with each other in passing. Lines of desks flanked each side of the hall, and the scent of disinfectant mingled with expensive perfumes in the air—like a medical facility, Anna thought. She felt entirely out of place.Leland and Ruben exchanged a few low, heated words with one of the men behind a desk. Anna could barely hear them. Her adrenaline had long since turned to fear when she realized that this could be it. This could be the dumbest thing she’d ever done. And she might die for it.At last, the man seemed to relent to the nobles, and the small group entered a large room. It was fully lit by a multitude of windows and a few strategically placed gas lamps. Three long tables formed a U shape in its center; each one staffed with eight men. Only a handful of women sat amongst their ranks and Anna wondered why.A tall, distinct man in the center of the middle table addressed them. “Lord Leland, Lord Ruben. How can the council assist you this day?”“Your Honor, this young lady you see before you—” Ruben began.Leland didn’t give him a chance. “This abhorrent commoner stole one of my uniforms, poisoned my tea—”“I’d hardly call it ‘poison,’ sir,” Anna murmured.“Do not interrupt me!” Leland snapped. “She removed a prized book from my collection, tricked my other servants, and then proceeded to steal my most valuable horse.”“Borrowed!” Anna corrected.Ruben caught her eye and gave her one sharp shake of his head. Leland’s fists balled and his knuckles turned white.“Apologies, m’lords,” she added quickly.“How old are you, dear?” One of the women to the leader’s left asked.“Fifteen, my lady.”“Fifteen,” she repeated slowly, features deep in thought. “You accuse a fifteen-year-old girl of attempted murder, two counts of theft, and purposeful deception. Is that correct, Lord Leland?”“Yes, Your Honor,” he replied.“She is considered an adult in this council’s eyes,” another man added. “She must be tried as an adult.”“If these accusations are true, she could be hanged for such crimes,” the council leader noted, his words heavy.“I see this as sufficient punishment.” Leland’s tone was like ice and sent shivers down Anna’s spine.“With all due respect, Your Honors, I don’t believe she meant any undue harm. Death may be—excuse my assumptions of course—a little extreme?” To Anna’s surprise, Ruben chimed in for the first time.“Do you have a history with this girl?” Another man asked.“No, sir. However, she seems to have a latent talent that may be wasted should we decide to end her life.”“What would you suggest, then?”“Indentured servitude? Perhaps to Lord Leland himself?” Ruben shrugged.“I do not want that brat anywhere near my estate,” Leland hissed.Anna thought of the high she had while riding Aubrey. How she could navigate the terrain with a shred of thought. She was barely making enough to make ends meet at the tavern; indentured servitude would be a slow death in its own right. She could strategize better than anyone she knew, and snap decisions came to her easily.“Let me join the war effort,” she said suddenly. Her words held the confidence of a woman twice her age.All twenty-four members of the council locked eyes on her, then broke into laughter.“I’m serious!” she shouted, a cold sweat breaking on her back. “Maybe I am just a commoner. But I know you need more knights. Better knights.”She glanced at the two men beside her. Leland’s face warred between fury and confusion. Ruben, however. Ruben looked at her approvingly. He wasn’t laughing.“I never would have caught her on that horse had it not been for the river,” Ruben said in her defense.The laughter died. Their attention moved to Ruben.“Your Honors, I have never seen a man ride a horse as she did. Her preparations for this elaborate prank show a strategic, complicated mind. I agree with her.”“Ruben, how dare you speak of her in such a way?” Leland was livid. “The war? This is who we want to represent our country?”“If she can’t keep up with the others, she’ll die anyway.” Ruben shrugged. “In which case, you’d have the punishment that you seek.”“She’s a fifteen-year-old girl that can ride a horse. I don’t call those solid qualifications,” Leland snapped.“She is very young,” one of the men at the table noted. “However, due to…extenuating circumstances, we’ve lowered the age of enlistment.”“We have children defending Britannia?” Leland laughed dryly. “This girl is a thief, not a strategist. Any lad half her age could ride a horse.”“It’s true, she could cause more trouble than good should we allow her to join.” One of the men shifted uncomfortably. “Especially with the current landscape of the war. It’s a risky choice.”“Leland, you know this wasn’t done out of malicious intent. Come to your senses,” Ruben interjected. “Surely, your pride isn’t worth a young woman’s life?”There was a tense silence between Leland and Ruben.“Lord Leland? What say you?” The leader of the council asked at last.At that moment, Anna knew she could risk nothing. She’d promised herself not to use the ace in her sleeve unless it was a life or death situation. And this was it.“My lord?” she called, tugging gently on Leland’s sleeve.He looked down at her, meeting her gaze.That was all she needed.Summoning every ounce of will, she invaded Leland’s thoughts as easily as if she were rifling through his bureau. His anger, hate, and agitation burned her own consciousness like wildfire. The true battle began."Say: ‘Let her join.’” Anna fought to fit herself not only within his thoughts but his body. She struggled to make his lips form the words as if they were her own."What the hell are you doing to me?” Leland pushed back, attempting to eject her from his mind.Anna had to work fast and get him to relent. His thoughts were set completely on not saying the words she needed him to. She took advantage of this and tried wiggling his fingers. They responded. As Leland, she placed a hand on her own shoulder.It was a strange experience, looking down at herself through Leland’s eyes. Her face was complacent enough while she worked to take control of the man’s faculties.“What in God’s name are you?” His mind screamed.“Right now? I’m you.”He shifted his concentration to remove his hand from her shoulder. Now was her chance.“Ruben’s right. Let her join.” The words were hers but came from Leland’s mouth. In his voice.“Lord Leland? You’re sure?” The council leader asked.Leland’s consciousness lost the force of focus the more he fought against her. His thoughts were spread across his entire body; like she’d invaded his every nerve. She settled into his shell and won control of his senses.“I’m sure. If she dies in the field, at least it will be for the good of the country.” Anna added a sigh and a shrug to punctuate his consent.Leland’s own emotions began to transition in turn. Anger into acceptance. Hate into reluctance. Agitation into exhaustion. The feelings and words Anna imprinted into him became his reality. His mind and body grew more accustomed to the sensations of her control by the second. From that point on, she could use him as a shell whenever she needed; and he would never know the difference.Confident that his mind was sufficiently changed, she returned her consciousness to her own body.Ruben looked at Leland in surprise. “Good of you to have a change of heart, friend.”“It’s settled, then.” The council leader lifted a quill and dipped it in ink. “For this contract, I need your name, please.”“It’s Marianne, sir,” she stated her full name proudly and bowed. “Thank you for your time.” TwoThe walk home felt like years. Muscles Anna forgot existed hurt like hell, her thin shoes had developed thumb-sized holes in the soles. Small rocks took the opportunity to their advantage and slipped inside the leather, scraping against the bare flesh of her feet. She remembered that she only had one pair left, she’d have to be careful with them. Though, it wasn’t as if she’d expected to walk nearly three miles in a single day. If she’d had it her way, Leland or Ruben would have given her a horse to ride home. But, forcing that out of Leland would have been too obvious. Even more obvious than his sudden change of heart. She hoped that at least Ruben didn’t suspect her.When she reached her meager cottage, she leaned her forehead against the door and let her hand rest on the handle. A part of her wished desperately to see her parents on the other side; to run to the warm, welcoming arms of her mother, accept the light scolding of her father—though he was as calculating as she. Maybe if she recalled them with enough clarity, they would be there.She turned the handle and entered. Dark and quiet as always. The sun was low on the horizon so she lit one of the few oil lamps she owned. “You used your Geass,” a voice stated. “Why?”Anna jumped in surprise, not expecting a visitor. Especially not this one.“C.C.?” She asked, searching the room. “I thought you’d be gone a few days?”“That isn’t important. Why did you use your Geass?” she repeated.Anna finally spotted C.C., sitting in the far corner of the miniature common room, golden eyes peering over a teacup. Anna sighed, removed her destroyed shoes, and sunk into the only sitting chair she hadn’t sold. The adrenaline that had fueled her had evaporated and the energy it took to manipulate Leland had wreaked havoc on her mental state. “I was to be hung in the village square. As an example.”“For what?”Anna didn’t want to admit it. C.C. had cautioned her a dozen times on the potential consequences of playing pranks on the wrong people. “For…stealing a noble’s horse.”“I didn’t think you a common thief.” C.C. set her teacup down and stretched her arms above her head, her emerald hair falling in pools around her crossed legs. “You don’t need the money, after all.”“I was going to give it back. It was… I just…” Anna brushed her dark hair away from her eyes and cradled her face in her hands. She suddenly felt the worst headache she’d ever experienced.“You wanted to play a joke on Leland. I could feel it, you know. His rage, the intent to kill you. I heard the two of you war inside of his mind. I told you your mischievous nature would land you in hot water.”“I know,” she groaned into her palms. “I know. I know. I know.”“You joined the war,” another statement. “You promised to use your Geass to get you away from death. Instead, you’ve shrouded yourself in it.”Anna buckled beneath the full weight of her words and shivered. For that brief moment inside the courtroom, she’d felt much older and wiser than all of them. Now, she couldn’t have felt more obscure.“You are not a fool, Marianne. What is it you’re trying to accomplish?”“I want to be something, C.C. I have no family left. No true friends. You’re all I have. And what have I done so far? Play jokes on people and master horse-riding.” Anna rubbed her temples, revealing indignant features carved into her lovely face.“You’re just a girl. I saw how those men looked at you. They expect you to die as soon as you step foot into training.”“I want to show them what ‘just a girl’ can do,” Anna replied hotly. “I could use my Geass—” “For more than saving your own life?” C.C. sighed. “I gave it to you to save you. Do you not remember?”“You taught my body how to swim,” Anna murmured, pulling her knees to her chest. Her underskirts were dirtied and torn. Leland had taken away his house’s uniform before allowing Anna to go on her way. “And I promised you I’d only use it for myself. This would still be using it for myself.”“You’re twisting your own words.” C.C. took another sip of her tea. “You remember incorrectly.”Anna locked her gaze and was instantly transported to the day that C.C. had bestowed upon her with the power she’d used against Leland. The memory struck her like an arrow, all sensations returning to her as if the experience were happening all over again. Rushing water filled her mouth and nostrils, choking her, her horse screamed in the distance. Anna had never learned how to swim. She was going to die with her horse.“Stop it!” Anna shrieked. “Please! Stop.”The hallucination vanished. Anna shook in her chair, her head buried in her arms.“Like all humans before you, you will do what you wish. I can’t stop you.” C.C. stood; her slim figure posed proudly in the lamplight. “However, you should think before you act.”Anna waited until the witch left the room before allowing the sobs to consume her. ThreeAnna had a month to prepare for military life. She found the thought both laughable and terrifying. Her personal belongings fit in one small suitcase, and the money she’d stashed beneath a few loose floorboards for years was easily stowed between her thin clothing. Physically, she was ready to be whisked away to training within a day. Mentally, however, she wasn’t so sure.The afternoon after the enlistment decision was finalized, she strolled through the forest surrounding her cottage. C.C. was off doing whatever it was she did in her time away.“Did I make the right decision?” she pondered aloud. “Mom? Dad? Did I really mess up this time?”She would never know the answer, of course. Her parents had passed five years before, leaving her an orphan at ten. Anna was determined to not be dragged helplessly through the orphanage and foster care system. The dirtied, homeless children on streets spoke volumes in terms of lack of care. She’d sold everything she could to any who would buy from a ten-year-old, paid for her hideaway in full, then stashed the remainder for food, clothing, and small comforts.The calling of birds lulled her into a drift of memory while she walked. She’d met C.C. when she was eleven, the woman was one of the only people who had never looked at Anna as a simple, hopeless child. And, for Anna, C.C. was the only friend she could trust. At thirteen, C.C. revealed to her the truth of her power after rescuing her from drowning; after Anna had lost her favorite horse. Imprinting the power that C.C. called “Geass” directly into her very soul. Anna had only ever used it once before Leland—it terrified and excited her.A shrill cry of fear stopped Anna in her tracks. On the ground before her lie a large bird of prey. One wing was broken in multiple places, and it struggled to move away from her with claws and one working wing.“Well, hello there,” Anna called gently, crouching to make herself smaller. “It’s okay, I won’t hurt you.”It screeched again, but its movements slowed. The feathers were chestnut brown in color, its beak a gradient of bright yellow into black. A hawk. Anna had only ever seen them circling the sky around the patches of forests and trees, but never up close.“It’s okay. I can help,” she soothed and inched closer.Its dark eyes bored into hers, and its struggling slowed. Anna tore a section of cloth from her skirt and wrapped it around her hand. If it bit her, the beak would go right through and its long talons appeared just as sharp, but at least the fabric offered minimal protection.“I have some food back home. I can get you some meat, too.” Anna continued her advance, painstakingly slow. “We can heal your wing.”Another noise escaped from the bird, but it sounded more like a curious chirp than the terrified cry it had admitted only moments before. She was within arms reach. With a confident hand, she carefully extended her arm towards its talons. Animals could sense the fear of humans; the scent, quivering limbs, the sound of rushed breaths. She’d learned as much with horses. If the hawk would fight back, it would hurt like hell whether no matter her confidence levels. It was far better to take charge of the situation.“That’s it. You’ll be okay,” she murmured, her fingers touching its talons.The hawk tested the fabric on her hand, grasping at its edge and releasing it. Anna wrapped her thumb around one of its claws, giving it a hold for lifting itself from the ground. She held her breath as the hawk recognized the opportunity, and grasped her hand with its second claw. It beat its good wing against the ground and in a moment, stood stalwart on the back of her fist. Its broken wing hung awkwardly at its side, but it maintained balance with Anna’s help. The talons dug through the fabric and into her skin—Anna could feel a slow trickle of blood where they pierced and the fabric was soon blotted with her blood. But, she couldn’t feel it. The adrenaline that sped her heart as she held such a powerful being nulled all pain.“I have a stable you can live in, too. I’ll take very good care of you,” she murmured, daring not stroke the bird with her other hand. She took a few test steps towards home and felt its claws dig deeper. It was relying on her with its life. “I promise. You’ll be back to perfect health in no time.”Over the next few weeks, Anna turned the abandoned stable into a muse for her hawk. There were plenty of mice and rats within it to catch, but she also supplied meat from the butcher. She purchased leather gloves and materials to create a make-shift stint for its wing. C.C. said little of the bird but watched in genuine curiosity while Anna cared for the creature.When the time came for Anna to leave for training, the hawk’s wing was healed enough for it to fly freely. But, instead of returning to its forest as Anna had expected for it to do, it followed her everywhere. Into the unknown. Into war.
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